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Attorney General investigating Complaints Of Price Gouging, As Rumors Swirl

Reported: Jan. 10, 2014 11:20 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 10, 2014 11:48 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Stefano DiPietrantonio) -- Rumors and rumblings over alleged price gouging at some area convenience stores were burning-up social media as the water crisis unfolded in West Virginia Friday.

Eyewitness News checked into convenience stores from Cross Lanes to Dunbar to Kanawha City.

Bill Smeedy, the owner of the Cold Spot in Dunbar, was stunned to find ugly comments on Facebook, which were accusing him of jacking-up water prices.

"We're not gouging anybody," Smeedy said. “We're hurt more by someone hollering gouging, and there's not a basis to it."

He poured through his receipts to show exactly what people had paid for water on Thursday, when people swarmed his store for water and ice. Prices ranged from 79 cents to 99 cents for individual bottles of water.

"We don't sell by the case," he said.

Yet on social media, someone claimed he was selling cases of water for $30 and up, and the damaging rumor began to catch fire.

"It's really sad for one person to go buy 30 bottles at 99 cents, because he wants his water and everybody would have paid 99 cents," he said.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said he is getting tons of complaints of price gouging at his office.

"I think it's outrageous,” said Morrisey said. “West Virginians, most of them are wonderful, good people, they're very sharing, but you always get some bad apples out there who try to take advantage of people during states of emergency, it's unconscionable!"

Morrisey said to nail the cheaters, you need to do two important things.

"Make sure you keep your receipt and ultimately file a report with our office," he said.
Smeedy denied the rumors of gouging and challenged anyone who said he engaged in it to produce a receipt.

“Just bring the receipt that I gouged you, and you get $500,” he said. “Won't happen.”

Morrisey anyone caught price gouging could expect to pay a $5,000 and, since it is a misdemeanor, could spend up to a year in jail.



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